Encroachers to be evicted from defence land

New Delhi: Allaying members` concerns in the Rajya Sabha over encroachment of defence land in various parts of the country, Government on Wednesday assured them that it will take stringent action to evict encroachers.

Defence Minister A K Antony told the House that the government was examining the issue of construction of the 31-storey Harsiddhi Heights, a high-rise situated on Worli Seaface in Mumbai, and promised to "take action".

Replying to a supplementary, Antony said, "…after examining the whole case, we will take action."

The Mumbai high court has ordered an interim stay on further sale of flats and induction of occupants in the controversial high rise after the Indian Navy opposed the construction due to its close proximity to a naval base. The tower will overlook naval installations in the area, including INS Trata.

Antony acknowledged that encroachment of of defence land is a reality in some states due to historical reasons but assured that the government was now taking "strict action" to change the course.

He said that to do away with the problem of identification of the defence land in civil areas in states, the ministry is carrying out computerisation of the land records and the exercise will be completed before March 31.

"11,000 acres of land is encroached out of the total 17.31 lakh acres defence land. In the last ten years, the number of encroachment has, however, become very less in comparison to what it was in past…we have taken very stringent measures," he said.

Antony said the Centre with the help of state governments was making efforts to rehabilitate thousands of people who have been occupying the Naval land in Mumbai for long.

Rajiv Shukla (Cong)wanted to know what steps the government was taking to retrieve the defence land already encroached upon.

Another Congress member V Hanumantha Rao said the defence land has been given on lease to private parties, who are using it for commercial purposes by constructing over a dozen marriage halls in Andhra Pradesh and wanted to know whether the ministry will cancel such leases.

Replying to it, Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju said these were old bungalows where land is given for residential purposes. "In some cases, there is misuse for commercial purposes. We are looking into it."